South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared himself in economic ‘repair mode’ at a major investment conference as the country raised a total of $55 billion from investors to help haul itself out of recession.
The former union leader, who inherited a mismanaged economy from the scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma earlier this year, wants $100 billion of new investments over the next five years, Reuters wrote.
Investment commitments of almost 290 billion rand ($20 billion) were made at the conference, Ramaphosa said.
He had already secured pledges for some $35 billion, mainly from China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Ramaphosa has made reviving the economy a top priority since assuming power in February, but has been hampered by fiscal constraints and infighting in the ruling African National Congress.
“We are in repair mode,” Ramaphosa said in his opening speech at the conference, which looked at opportunities in sectors including agriculture, manufacturing and energy.
Ramaphosa said the promised investments would give the country a lift.
“We have witnessed today the beginning of a new narrative about investing in South Africa,” he said in his closing remarks. “Today I can say the investment strike is over.”
Analysts have said investors held back during Zuma’s rule.
Property rights commitment
Several companies across various sectors made the pledges, including Anglo American (AAL.L), one of the world’s largest commodities miners, which said it would spend 71.5 billion rand ($5 billion) in the country over the next five years.
South Africa’s association of car makers, which includes Nissan, Volkswagen and Isuzu, said its members would invest more than 40 billion rand over the next five years, while Telecoms firm Vodacom pledged to invest 50 billion rand over the same period.
Investors welcomed Ramaphosa’s rise to the presidency partly due to his strong ties to the business community. Since then, however, the economy has sunk into recession and faced a series of downbeat data.
South Africa will ease some immigration rules, including agreeing visa waiver agreements with more countries, in an effort to boost investment and tourism, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Tuesday.
The changes are part of a broader economic turnaround programme announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week as his team seeks to drag Africa's most developed economy out of recession.
"We play a critical economic role in admitting over 10 million international visitors to South Africa annually, which includes tourists, business travellers, investors and neighbours," Gigaba told reporters.
"Millions of jobs are sustained by the economic activity generated by these travellers."
Gigaba said negotiations were also being finalised to conclude visa waiver agreements with more than a dozen countries across Africa, the Middle East and eastern Europe, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Qatar and the UAE.
Much-criticized rules on travelling minors will be simplified, he said.
In June 2015 new rules were implemented requiring parents to carry an unabridged birth certificate for accompanying children and consent letters from parents who were not travelling.
The tourism industry said the regulations, which came into effect during Gigaba's previous tenure as home affairs minister, were hurting business.
Tourism contributes more than 400 billion rand ($28 billion) to South Africa's economy, or around 8 percent of GDP.
This is more so because it is clear that deposed former President Jacob Zuma, who is at the core of the allegations, has launched a fightback campaign that can undermine President Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to clean up government.
The remit of the commission, which is headed by Constitutional Court Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, is to establish the extent of what’s become known as “state capture” by rogue elements in government. Its findings will reveal how the country’s democracy was so imperilled within two decades of its founding election in 1994. It’ll also help ensure that the necessary remedial action is taken to prevent a repeat.
South Africa needs to find out how Zuma and his cronies, the Gupta family, were able to exploit weaknesses in the country’s governance system.
To perform its role effectively, a judicial commission must act as an inquisitorial inquiry whose job is to find out what happened and why. This requires it to refrain from acting like a normal (adversarial) court of law. The commission isn’t a substitute for criminal prosecution or, for that matter, civil litigation.
A great deal flows from this foundational point.
Zondo’s job isn’t to “follow the money” as some have suggested. Important features of the corporate labyrinth built by the Guptas and their allies and accomplices has already been uncovered, for example the property holdings of the Gupta family, or examined in court proceedings.
The commission’s job isn’t to track the flow of funds or any money-laundering machines. That will be the job of the criminal courts, as and when they get the chance.
Instead, Zondo should grapple with the politics of state capture. He needs to get under the skin of the politics of state capture; to get on record why and what happened; and to make clear findings of political accountability. Speed is of the essence. He needs to move fast enough that the commission maintains momentum and does not allow Zuma and other implicated parties to get out ahead of it, or to seek to tilt public opinion in their favour.
The urgency is underscored by reports that Zuma is plotting with others against Ramaphosa.
Process and powers
To evaluate the commission’s progress, it is important to keep in mind its terms of reference and its powers. What can Zondo investigate and what can the commission do about whatever it uncovers?
Firstly, its terms of reference are deep, but narrow. Seven of the nine elements of the terms of reference refer directly to the Guptas’ or Zuma’s interference with government decision-making and procurement. Tthe remaining two invite a broader inquiry into state procurement.
So the terms of reference are essentially confined to the Gupta family and its relationship with the democratic state – from the presidency and the cabinet, down through state agencies and state-owned enterprises, and down deep into the executive arm of government.
In digging for the truth, those responsible for what happened will – or should – be identified by the commission so that they can be held to account.
But what powers does the commission have to take remedial action to address any wrongdoings it uncovers?
Very little. Certainly, far less than people seem to think. The commission’s task is to investigate and report back to Ramaphosa, which may include recommendations.
These recommendations are not, per se, binding. The commission is essentially a fact-finding mission and does not have the power to make orders.
So the report could say, for example, that criminal activity has been committed, and the commission may refer the matter for prosecution or further investigation.
But, the prosecutorial authorities don’t have to wait for the conclusion of the commission process. Indeed, they should be following the proceedings closely and initiating action wherever it suggests that criminality may have occurred.
Uncertainty about this point has led to some procedural confusion during the opening fortnight, particularly around whether those implicated would have an opportunity to cross-examine.
Unfortunately, Zondo let the matter fester unnecessarily before finally ruling on September 11. He had little difficulty dismissing the application of the Gupta brothers on the basis that they are, in essence, fugitives from justice who are unwilling to come back to South Africa to give evidence to the commission. In the case of Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, he granted the application to cross-examine.
This may be justified. But it may also be a red herring. The best commissions of inquiry are those with strong “counsel for the inquiry” who don’t just lead evidence of one side of a story, but who test the evidence as they go along, adding to its weight and credibility, in pursuit of a robust version of the truth.
There are anxieties about Zondo’s pace. It is worth remembering that this commission derives from the report on state capture by former public protector Thuli Madonsela. Because she had had neither sufficient time nor resources to complete her work, appointing a judicial commission of inquiry was the remedial action that had to be taken.
Madonsela wanted the commission to complete its work in six months. It was a rather optimistic target. But it wasn’t entirely unreasonable provided that the commission focused on the narrow scope set by the terms of reference, and organised its procedure in a lean and equally focused manner.
Zondo has asked for an additional two years. It very far from clear why he needs so long and has led the lobby group, the Council for the South African Constitution, to join the court proceedings to object to any extension.
Regardless, the commission needs to act as swiftly as it can. South Africans are being reminded daily that Zuma may have left office, but that he still is capable of muddying the waters. If it focuses efficiently on its core task, and evidence of the political conspiracy that underpinned the state capture project is adduced and tested, the proceedings of the commission may serve to keep a lid on Zuma’s fightback campaign.
The stakes are very high for all concerned – for Ramaphosa’s political future, and for the country he leads.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s late night announcement that the government was going to push ahead with implementing a decision taken by the African National Congress (ANC) at its national conference last year to expropriate land without compensation has set the cat among the pigeons.
Speculation is widespread that Ramaphosa gave in to the land expropriation without compensation proposition to appease a faction of former president Jacob Zuma which has positioned itself as a champion of “radical economic transformation”.
All this appears fair comment, and is no way unduly cynical. Politicians say things, whether or not it is entirely wise to say them, to get votes.
Yet the land debate is about much more than party politicking. In many ways, it goes to the heart of South Africa’s post-colonial politics. It speaks to fundamental racial chasms. This points to the very real danger that the different terms on which the land issue is debated simply don’t address each other.
It would seem to me that there are three broad approaches to which the land issue is debated – the instrumental, the functionalist and the symbolic.
All three approaches have a number of things in common. They all recognise the dangers inherent in the grossly disproportionate amount of land owned by whites, they accept that this has arisen out of the injustices of the colonial past, and agree that it needs to be addressed for reasons of both social justice and political stability.
Beyond that there tends to be disagreement about ways, means and the urgency of land reform.
It’s important to understand these different approaches and how they relate to the ANC’s proposed implementation of land expropriation without compensation. It’s particularly important for people who hold these different viewpoints to understand and find one another. South Africans can’t afford to let the land debate be reduced to a shouting match.
The instrumental approach
This argues its case upon both ideological and constitutional grounds.
There is the argument that the ANC’s move represents a fundamental undermining of property rights, to the extent that it might even threaten the ownership rights of ordinary house-owners in urban areas. As such, it constitutes a major disincentive to investment and totally contradicts Ramaphosa’s highly-touted goal of attracting USD$100 billion in investment over the next five years.
Furthermore, because of the threat to security it involves, the move will serve as major discouragement to commercial farmers, who are unlikely to pour money into infrastructural improvements if they fear being expropriated. As such expropriation without compensation is a major threat to both jobs and economic growth.
The property rights argument is backed up by those who posit that the considered constitutional amendment is unnecessary because the constitution already allows for the expropriation of property by the state for public interest purposes.
This, the constitutionalists argue, gives the state all the armoury it needs to pursue land reform with urgent speed without threatening property rights.
The functionalist approach
This says that there is a desperate hunger for land among impoverished black poor. This needs to be addressed on grounds of need and political stability.
Economically, the argument is that, while the role of commercial agriculture as the principal producer of the nation’s food supply and of significant exports need to be recognised, there are many areas where farming could be successfully undertaken by black farmers, given the right support. This perspective is steeped in history. It points out how white commercial agriculture was systematically advantaged by the state under white rule, and how prosperous black peasant communities, whose competitiveness constituted a threat to white farmers, were dispossessed.
It’s argued that there is much land available in South Africa which could valuably be transferred into private or communal black hands. Such land includes property owned by the state, land held by speculators, and farms which over the last two decades have shed most of their workers as they have turned over from direct food production to become game farms.
The symbolic approach
This angle to the debate appeals to the heart as much to the head. It harps on the point that land belongs to Africans. It was stolen by the colonialists and should be given back.
The symbolic approach is overwhelmingly about African dignity. As such, it often involves notions of reparations. It tends to brush aside all the difficult policy issues about how land transfer should be managed, let alone the injustices which may be heaped upon white landowners who had nothing to do with the original theft of African land.
Meeting of minds
Ramaphosa is well known for playing the long game, a pragmatist who is ready to bend to political pressures to achieve his long-term objectives.
It may well be that he will bow to the ANC imperative to pass a law allowing for expropriation without compensation. But he will want to make sure that it will pass constitutional muster. He will ensure that this amendment meets the requirements of the property clause in the constitution.
From this perspective, it’s tempting to conclude that the huffing and puffing about the ANC’s pursuit of expropriation without compensation is really about nothing. But that’s not the case. The Zimbabwean experience confirms this.
It was the Zimbabwean government’s lack of urgency about land reform in the first decades of independence which provided the backdrop to the war veterans’ seizure of white farms in the late 1990s. It was then that the Robert Mugabe government stepped in to give the land seizures legitimacy and to claim the credit.
Much controversy attends the land question in Zimbabwe to this day. Certainly, the post-2000 land reforms have not been a total failure. Nonetheless, what is beyond dispute is that the way they have been carried out has come at enormous cost to overall agricultural production. As such, the Zimbabwe mode of land reform is one South Africa cannot afford to adopt – or to be bundled into by a panic-stricken government scrambling to keep up with events on the ground.
The address of the land issue requires a meeting of minds. The instrumental, functionalist and symbolic approaches all have their important role to play, and humility and willingness to listen to competing perspectives should be at a premium.